Dead Orthodox

“There is nothing vital in the religion and in the worship of such people. They expect nothing, and they get nothing, and nothing happens to them. They go to God’s house, not with the idea of meeting with God, not with the idea of waiting upon him; it never crosses their minds or enters into their hearts that something may happen in a service. No, we always do this on Sunday morning. It is our custom. It is our habit. It is a right thing to do. But the idea that God may suddenly visit his people and descend upon them, the whole thrill of being in the presence of God, and sensing his nearness, and his power, never even enters their imaginations…” Martyn Lloyd-Jones

Dead Orthodoxy

Dead orthodoxy is having a correct doctrine without a change in heart. A person who is a dead orthodox is one who is very religious on Sunday but shows few or no signs of conversion during the rest of the week. One such person has no zeal for God, His word or for lost souls. The best term to describe such people is modern day Pharisees. Just like the Pharisees used to hold tradition above the commandments of God (cf. Mark 7:1-13) we also have churches and church members today who do the same, such that for most people even going to church on a Sunday becomes a ritual.

“The Pharisees were the group most influential with the people, were noted for their accurate and therefore authoritative interpretations of Jewish law, and had their own traditions and way of life to which they were faithful. They had a simple standard of living and cultivated harmonious relations with others.” Paul J. Achtemeier

There is nothing wrong with being Orthodox, but our orthodoxy (correct belief) must lead to Orthopraxy (correct behaviour). It doesn't help to know all the right doctrines without them changing the way you live. The other extreme is that of saying that orthodoxy doesn't matter, so you end up serving a God that you've made up.


Dead Orthodox churches usually strive to change their church members through the law. They will stress on how you must be moral, how you must do this and that, but in the end all they're doing is pouring water on a rock. The law is good when used rightly, but the purpose of the law was never to change us, it was given to show us our sinfulness so that we can run to the Saviour, Jesus Christ.

“Do we go to God’s house expecting something to happen? Or do we go just to listen to a sermon, and to sing our hymns, and to meet with one another? How often does this vital idea enter into our minds that we are in the presence of the living God, that the Holy Spirit is in the Church, that we may feel the touch of his power? How much do we think in terms of coming together to meet with God, and to worship him, and to stand before him, and to listen to him? Is there not this appalling danger that we are just content because we have correct beliefs? And we have lost the life, the vital thing, the power, the thing that really makes worship worship, which is in Spirit and truth.” Martyn Lloyd-Jones

Our churches should be filled with people who are zealous for the Lord. People who want to worship God in spirit and in truth (John 4:23-24). People who obey God, not just because they are told obey him, but because they want to. Moralism should never be a substitute for the Gospel.

In Romans 2 Paul spends the most of the chapter showing how the Jews had become Dead Orthodox.

“Indeed you are called a Jew, and rest on the law, and make your boast in God, and know His will, and approve the things that are excellent, being instructed out of the law, and are confident that you yourself are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of babes, having the form of knowledge and truth in the law. You, therefore, who teach another, do you not teach yourself? You who preach that a man should not steal, do you steal? You who say, “Do not commit adultery,” do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? You who make your boast in the law, do you dishonor God through breaking the law? For “the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you,” as it is written. For circumcision is indeed profitable if you keep the law; but if you are a breaker of the law, your circumcision has become uncircumcision. Therefore, if an uncircumcised man keeps the righteous requirements of the law, will not his uncircumcision be counted as circumcision? And will not the physically uncircumcised, if he fulfills the law, judge you who, even with your written code and circumcision, are a transgressor of the law? For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh; but he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter; whose praise is not from men but from God.” (Romans 2:17-29)

Paul's conclusion is that one is not part of God's people by outward observance only, but from being changed inside, true circumcision is that which is done by God in the heart.

“A lot of people think that Christianity is you doing all the righteous things you hate and avoiding all the wicked things you love in order to go to Heaven. No, that's a lost-man with religion. A Christian is a person whose heart has been changed; they have new affections.” – Paul Washer


Dead Orthodoxy is when people hold on to correct doctrines but are not converted from within. We should be both Orthodox and orthopraxy.

Soli Deo Gloria